Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A fun read - and a late night

Just finished a book that isn't exactly what I'd choose for book club material, but I do recommend it for the fun you may have reading it.
Cecilia Ahern is an Irish writer whose first novel, "P.S. I Love You" became a movie with Hilary Swank in a starring role. Not a bad start, eh?
"The Book of Tomorrow," her seventh release, has a stylish cover that caught my eye from the Thayer Memorial Library shelf recently, so I picked it up - knowing I had other books to read first - and brought it home to simmer while I plunged through Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections." (Correct me if I'm wrong, but that book is dense. Well-written, to be sure, with rich, showy language, humor and style, but dense, baby, dense.)
Finally I picked Ahern's novel up and started carrying it with me to waiting rooms, passenger seats and the kitchen table. It starts slowly and builds, requiring patience, so some folks will put it down, which is too bad. Its narrator is a blunt, smart-mouthed 16-year-old whose life is about to change - and I began to enjoy her sassy shock-value retorts as I got to know her.
"The Book of Tomorrow" is a mystery with gothic undertones, a la Diane Setterfield's "The Thirteenth Tale." Set in rural Ireland, on the grounds of a decaying castle, it's the story of a mouthy, wealthy teenager from the Dublin area whose life changes after her father's suicide. She and her traumatized mother are forced to move in with her quiet brother, Arthur, and his tight-lipped, domineering wife, Rosaleen. Young Tamara dubs them "the Deliverance duo." They live in a cottage near the ruins of a castle once occupied by an impoverished Irish family, and it's Tamara's boredom with rural life that leads to her discovery of an old book. She finds it's a journal with a twist: its blank pages reveal her own handwriting, and much about her life as it will unfold tomorrow, disappearing as each day unfolds and a new one begins. It's not long before Tamara is immersed in fearful concern for her unresponsive mother, growing suspicions about Rosaleen's control over them all, and a desire to figure out all the puzzles the book raises--including the old woman living in a shed on the property, and the nun who becomes her friend, but won't reveal much about secrets she certainly knows.
The story's pace picks up about mid-way, and "The Book of Tomorrow" becomes a page-turner. Even better, for me: it's a mystery I couldn't figure out. Ahern springs it on the reader skillfully. There are many unknowns, well masked, and it's only as Tamara unravels them that I, too, learned about her life.
This book has a contemporary setting, made gothic by its setting and the events that unfold, but it also has much of the spirit, bravado and curiosity an adolescent girl possesses. It's as good a read for teens as it is for their mothers!
In her acknowledgments, the author records her respect for booksellers - something we should all remember if we value the industry supplying us with worlds in print. I couldn't put it better myself: "In "The Book of Tomorrow" I share my belief in the magic of books, how I believe books must contain some sort of homing device, which allows them to draw the correct reader to them. Books choose their readers, not the other way around. I believe that booksellers are the match-makers. Thank you."
Well said.